Light showers: Park gets lit with ‘Umbrella Project’ dance

Pretty in pink: Participants in the “Umbrella Project,” coming to Brooklyn Bridge Park on June 3, use their rain shields to light up the night.
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Go dancing with the stars!

A sea of strangers will come together to light up Brooklyn Bridge Park with images of exploding stars and solar eclipses on June 3, as part of the World Science Festival. For the “Umbrella Project,” the dance group Pilobolus will distribute several hundred brightly-lit umbrellas and encourage people into cosmic formations, creating colorful images filmed from above and projected onto a giant screen. The crowd and the music will come together for a beautiful dance under the stars, said the group’s executive producer.

“They feel out the images together and it becomes this kind of wonderful, soothing, imaginative rave as you’re moving around in the music and looking up at these images,” said Itamar Kubovy.

The World Science Festival event will begin with star-gazing and an appearance by Bill Nye the Science Guy at 7 pm, followed by the “Umbrella Project.” Pilobolus has experimented with a wide range of patterns for the project before, but for this night it will focus on images of the sky, said Kubovy.

“Let’s try to makes shapes and images of things related to astronomy and science,” he said.

The umbrellas have three buttons that will light them up in red, yellow, and blue — or any combination of those colors. After a short video explaining how the umbrellas work, people usually start by creating small, simple patterns, and then grow into more elaborate designs, said Kubovy.

“They just start walking around looking up at the screen. They start to understand what is the relationship between their button pushing and moving around,” he said. “I think once we start to create a pattern — geometric lines, circles with concentric bands and rings around them — then try to create a shape that is referencing an object.”

It’s amazing to see how a crowd works together to turn a sea of of glowing umbrellas into recognizable shapes, said Kubovy.

“Getting people to build something together in great numbers, 200 people, making a beautiful image — a moon, astronomical concepts or images, eclipses — effectively reflecting the lights back to the stars, with some kind of empathy as a group of people.”

The project will prevail in clear skies or in rain — after all, everyone will already have a shield from the raindrops, said Kubovy.

“You have an umbrella, if it rains,” he said. “It’s amazing, it even becomes more intimate, everyone’s under a tent, their own little tent.”

Those who want to see more of Pilobolus can see five of the company’s newest collaborations on July 6 in Prospect Park, when the group performs for the Bric Celebrate Brooklyn Festival.

“The Umbrella Project” at Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 1 (enter at Furman Street and Old Fulton Street in Dumbo, June 3 at 8:30 pm. Free.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Updated 5:58 pm, July 9, 2018
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